Sunday, January 25, 2009

Nobody's Baby But Mine by Susan Elizabeth Phillips *****

The first time I read/listened to this book, I was pretty appalled at heroine Jane Darlington's method for getting pregnant, and even though I enjoyed the story, I did have a hard time getting past it. This time (my 4th or maybe even 5th) I just went with the fantasy: a 34-year-old brainy scientist decides she wants to have a baby on her own, but is determined the child will be in the normal IQ range. Her own experience with being way-above-average was lonely and isolated, and she didn't want that life for her child. The biological alarm clock was going off in her head so loudly that she wasn't thinking straight when a dim-bulb neighbor offered to pair her up with the Chicago Stars quarterback Cal Bonner. Jane had seen Cal on the TV, and something about his dumb-jock appearance and talk fit the image of the low-IQ sperm she sought...

Apparently Bonner was off his game in more ways than one, and his team buddies decided he needed a woman to take the edge off. Cal's usual woman was young - real young - and not too bright, so they figured he needed something different, maybe a society babe with some brains and maturity. Jane's dim-bulb neighbor is a waitress at the bar the team frequents, and she offers to find just the right person. Of course, Jane is so out of the world of sports, she never realized that quarterbacks in general, and Cal in particular, are likely to be pretty smart, and that his dumb-sounding speech pattern was a put-on for the TV journalist.

Jane is offered up to Cal as a birthday present from the guys - complete with bow - and the birthday party scene is pretty funny as she tries to convince him to take her. The only dance she knows is from her workout class, and the music he puts on is Flight of the Bumblebee - that one scene gets me giggling every time.

A lot of readers write in their reviews that they feel Cal was too hard on Jane, and they didn't feel the chemistry between them. For me personally, what Jane did was truly unconscionable and he was reacting normally. Also, there's a piece of the story that you have to be paying attention to: right after she leaves his house after the birthday party, Cal admits to himself that he's attracted to her. And here's a tiny spoiler: he keeps the bow she was wearing and presents it to her at the end of the story. That told me it was a love-at-first-sight type of story for Cal and Jane. In the story, one character refers to it as divine providence.

Once Cal figures out who she is and what she's done (she doesn't get pregnant the first time, so she has to stalk him to an out-of-town game and try again), he's understandably angry. He insists they get married and come to a custody agreement. Once it gets out in the press, he decides to take Jane with him to his hometown and hole her up there for appearances sake, then they'll divorce after the baby is born.

Of course, the rest of the story is their journey from strangers to enemies to friends and lovers. What Jane brings to the relationship is a strong personality that can take on his own inner warrior and challenge him, many times even besting him, which is something the young 20-somethings he'd been dating had never done. The secondary romance in the story is Cal's parents, who faced a family tragedy and can't seem to get back to each other. Their story mirrors Cal and Jane's, and they help each other work it out.

It's nice to have one of the protagonists have a fairly healthy and normal family life, with both parents still alive - it seems pretty usual to have the conflict revolve around being raised in a dysfunctional and/or 1-parent family (which Jane was, but Cal wasn't). There's the usual SEP wit in the story as well as some touching moments, and we also get the backstory for Cal's brothers Ethan, a pastor, and Gabe, whose wife and son were killed in a car accident. Gabe and Ethan are featured in the next story, Dream a Little Dream, where Gabe learns to love again and Ethan reconciles himself with his career as a man of God and the woman of his own dreams.

It was fun to go back to Salvation, North Carolina for a visit - I'll be there again for the next book in the series too. 5 stars.

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